Pip Black and Joan Murphy, who launched Frame gym studios in 2009, realised that while fitness trends were taking off (think Voga and HiitYoga), pregnant women were often excluded or given no guidance around safety.
Both Black and Murphy wanted to continue being active when they were pregnant, but found exercise advice for mums “confusing and downplayed”.
“We couldn’t find anything out there for us, and so we suspected that others felt the same,” said Black, who is mum to two-year-old Phineus and currently 20 weeks pregnant with her second child.
So in January 2017, Black and Murphy launched their own fitness programme: Mumhood.
Black and Murphy - who is mum to three-year-old Zayden and three-month-old Jayla - said when they tried to find out more about exercise during their pregnancies, it was “almost impossible” to find reliable information and classes were “a little too focused around relaxing”.
After their first pregnancies, the pair sought to find out more about pre- and postnatal exercise by chatting to experts from different areas of health, fitness and medicine.
“Second time round, we were (and are) both much more knowledgable and in general, tend to be less cautious,” Black explained.
“I am concentrating more on weights, Pilates and Barre the second time round and Joan did a lot of Pilates and physio during her second pregnancy.”
Although the idea had been buzzing away their minds for some time, they didn’t seriously start work on Mumhood until early 2016.
Their aim was simple: to send out the message to mums that it’s a positive thing to keep exercising when pregnant, and that for a low-risk pregnancy you are not putting yourself or your baby at risk, as long as you follow the advice from a fitness instructor who is trained in pre- and postnatal exercise.
In January 2017 Mumhood launched, with face-to-face classes and four online programmes. They also organised workshops with guest speakers to educate women about the benefits of exercising.
The classes are run at Frame’s London studios and include Pilates, yoga, pre-natal strength training and postnatal tums. The online programmes are packaged as monthly subscriptions that include the equipment you’ll need, nutritional guidelines and monthly webinars.
“The general vibe is a really strong community,” explained Black. “We’ve seen so many mums become friends through coming to classes at Frame when pregnant, and then continuing with their babies after birth.
“We encourage mums to stay for coffee or smoothies after class to add a community element and, generally, the ladies are pretty like-minded.”
Although Mumhood’s journey is only just beginning, Black hopes it’s the start of a wealth of information that will empower new mums to make informed choices when it comes to working out.
“We believe the best thing we can do is to arm women with knowledge so they can make the best choices for them,” she said.
“Postnatally, it is scary how little we know about the needs of our body. We are so busy looking after our little ones that we forget about us, but often this can have quite significant long-term effects.
“It’s not just about fitness, it’s about health in general and this includes good nutrition, sleep and generally looking after yourself.”
Black and Murphy hope to get their pre- and postnatal fitness classes outside of London in the future, so more women can feel part of a supportive community when working out.
“A happy, healthy mum, tends to mean a happy, healthy family,” added Black. “This is not a time in your life when it’s about hitting personal bests and putting pressure on yourself to look a certain way, but it’s important to move regularly and to put good, wholesome nutrition inside your body.
“Exercising will make women feel better, and that’s the most important thing when you’re pregnant or have just given birth, when lots of other factors are out of your control.”
Black and Murphy answer mums’ fitness queries
Black said they get a lot of questions about the “right time” to start exercising after finding out you’re pregnant.
“We’re hoping to educate new mums that proper rehab (can be just 10 minutes a day) from early on, will give the best foundations for later down the line when you’re feeling up to going for it again,” Black said.
“One of the key things to remember is that everyone is different, and so much depends on your body, your birth, your previous fitness levels.”
Another question commonly asked is around trying to understand what your body needs.
“The most important thing during this stage of your life is to listen to your body,” said Black. “If you’ve had a terrible night with two hours of sleep, it’s not a great idea to try an intense session, but a few gentle stretches will make things slightly more bearable.”
Pregnant women who are keen to exercise during their pregnancies should consult their GP if they have any worries or concerns.
The NHS states: “Exercise is not dangerous for your baby – there is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour. You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if your maternity team advises you to.”
Previously speaking to HuffPost UK, consultant surgeon, Dr Sally Norton, said: “Women should build up exercise gradually depending on their initial fitness levels - as they would do if they weren’t pregnant.
“Moderate intensity, relatively low impact exercise is recommended - including light strength exercises.”